|Let’s Have All Have the Facts|
|Written by Allison Greenfield, Special to the BT|
On real estate, redevelopment, and community representation
Transparency and facts are essential for community boards to work.
As a Bayside Residents Association board member, real estate developer, and Bayside resident whose house sits next to Legion Memorial Park, I am troubled by recent developments in the Upper Eastside and by BT columnist Shane Graber’s advocacy for a very high density and jarring type of redevelopment along the south side of Legion Park (see “Big Plans, High Hopes,” May 2016).
Graber’s column was somewhat confusing since he also acknowledged that he was privy to details of the proposed park redevelopment that neither the board nor the community at large had seen. This fact made it impossible for anyone else to have an informed opinion.
My concern grew even greater after reading Graber’s June column, “Give Us Five More Feet,” in which he advocates for the removal of the 35-foot height limitation within the MiMo Biscayne Boulevard Historic District, on the basis that the height limitation was creating a “strip mall” effect along Biscayne Boulevard.
The benign title of the article suggests that if we repeal the MiMo height limitation, we will only have to contend with 40-foot-high buildings, instead of the current 35-foot buildings. But this is simply not true.
This June column was also confusing. And again, there seem to be underlying facts the reader was not given before hearing Graber’s very pro-development view on the subject.
Graber, for those who don’t know, is president of the Bayside Residents Association, president of the MiMo Biscayne Association, and a Realtor who recently opened his office just half a block from Legion Park. And he’s the Biscayne Times neighborhood correspondent for the Upper Eastside.
Graber volunteers on these community associations. So one would expect him to reach out to the board and the community with basic facts and an open discussion about the future of our beloved home and park.
Even more important, given the seeming conflict of interest between his real estate business and his community positions, one would expect him to go to great lengths to make sure all discussions are held publicly. Instead, he tells us about information he received that apparently was unavailable to the general public.
In late May, I was one of a few board members from several different area boards who attended a meeting with Global City Development, the developer that had leased and purchased the parcels south of Legion Park.
At that meeting we were informed that Global City intends to seek a special area plan (SAP) that would enable it to develop the area with added height (15 stories), added density (from 65 units/acre to 150 units/acre), and added commercial stores, within a residential-restricted area.
This is all very controversial stuff, especially since Global City intends to count Legion Park land as part of the nine acres necessary for an SAP to be legal under the Miami 21 zoning code.
Since that meeting, I have requested three times that the Bayside Residents Association board meet and discuss the implications for our community.
I have also asked the board to begin outreach into the community so residents of Bayside (and Palm Grove) understand the facts and the implications of such a development, and can have an impact on any proposed changes before it is too late to affect the outcomes.
I have not received a single response to any of those requests.
Graber’s advocacy for the Legion Park development is further complicated by his push for the removal of the MiMo Historic District 35-foot height limitation.
Although the column’s headline misleads the reader into thinking that he is discussing only a five-foot difference in height, the body of the column describes, in his words, “The maximum I foresee being built there would be five- or six-story structures” for the T6-8 parcels.
The fact is, T6-8 zoning allows buildings up to 15 stories. Zoning maps of the MiMo Biscayne Boulevard Historic District indicate all the neighborhoods that would be affected by T6-8 zoning: Belle Meade, Palm Grove, Bayside south of Legion Park, and Morningside.
Commissioner Marc Sarnoff used to say, “You are entitled to your own opinions but you aren’t entitled to your own facts.”
So, to Mr. Graber, as a community leader, elected or voluntary, it is incumbent upon you to inform your constituency of the facts. And if you’re a true leader, you will also ask your fellow residents what they think, not just espouse your own opinions from your position of authority.
I hope this column will provide the impetus for a change to a more transparent, informative, and community-centered Bayside Residents Association, where the implications of highly controversial issues -- like development alongside Legion Park and the MiMo 35-foot height limitation -- will be discussed in an open forum. Only then will the community’s real desires be uncovered, and not dictated by one man’s opinions.
Volume 14, Issue 11, January 2017
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